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Why should you read "The Handmaid's Tale"? - Naomi R. Mercer


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Margaret Atwood's speculative fiction masterpiece The Handmaid's Tale explores the consequences of complacency and how power can be wielded unfairly. Atwood’s chilling vision of a dystopian regime has captured readers' imaginations since its publication in 1985. How does this book maintain such staying power? Naomi R. Mercer investigates.

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Margaret Atwood is a Canadian author who wrote The Handmaid’s Tale in the early 1980s during the backlash against the progress of second-wave feminism. The title of the novel echoes the titles of the individual stories in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales and emphasizes the interplay between individual experiences that ultimately prove universal.

Reviewers and readers frequently compare The Handmaid’s Tale to George Orwell’s anti-totalitarian, anti-fascism novel 1984. The novels share some similarities: the totalitarian regimes in the novels attempt to control thought and behavior through the control of language. Both regimes are also rife with hypocrisy: the actions of those in power radically depart from the regimes’ purported values.

Atwood’s centering of a woman’s experience, however, also explores the normalization of violence against women. Offred’s narrative occasionally flashes back to her time in a re-education center where she and the other Handmaids were trained for their new roles. During this time, they became desensitized to the ways in which men perpetuate violence against women in both physical and non-physical ways.

Although The Handmaid’s Tale is a novel frequently read in college and high school literature classes, and has been continuously in print since its publication, the novel has experienced a resurgence due to the Hulu series of the same name. If you enjoy reading dystopian fiction—and particularly liked The Handmaid’s Tale—this list suggests other feminist dystopian novels.

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Meet The Creators

  • Educator Naomi R. Mercer
  • Art Director Phuong Mai Nguyen
  • Script Editor Brendan Pelsue
  • Animator Phuong Mai Nguyen
  • Storyboard Artist Phuong Mai Nguyen
  • Character Designer Phuong Mai Nguyen
  • Composer Stephen LaRosa
  • Sound Designer Stephen LaRosa
  • Associate Producer Jessica Ruby
  • Content Producer Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Narrator Susan Zimmerman

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